By Ebaad Malick, M.D.
For most of us, these past few weeks have been full of fear, news reports, memes on social media, and thoughts about finally getting that modern Japanese toilet installed (look it up). Of course, I am talking about Coronavirus, or, more specifically, COVID-19. At the end of this article I will include helpful links to some of the world’s top health organizations with easy-to-digest information about the virus and how to manage this developing pandemic. For now, I think we should all take a step back and think about a few things.
COVID-19 has engulfed all of the world on one key issue, thereby uniting us all against it. People are packing grocery stores to stock up on food and cleaning supplies. Around the globe, there have been cancellations of major sporting events and public gatherings. Even celebrities and politicians are being tested (or finally deciding to get tested), and there are a few instances of leading doctors and healthcare workers who have tragically passed away due to the disease.
At times like these, I hope we can at least feel more empathetic to those in our society who everyday can’t get the supplies they need, or who live in constant fear of opportunistic diseases due to their socioeconomic status. Hopefully, we can now better understand why so many people act out of fear and try everything they can to migrate to a safer area for their family.
All of a sudden, we are all injected with our own fears, and we begin to act out of that fear. Some of the pettier issues in our lives seem smaller. Our fragile humanity has been exposed. Viruses do not discriminate the same way we humans do. They don’t care if you are black or white. They don’t care if you’re rich or poor. They even don’t care if you’re one of those people that put pineapples on pizza (why, though?). A virus can infect almost anyone who is exposed to it; even with certain genetic factors and risk factors at play.
At this time, I would like to thank all physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers who are putting themselves at risk by being the first to respond to people with symptoms of COVID-19. When a patient comes into the clinic coughing up a storm, it is the person working the front desk that is exposed first; even before the patient gets a mask or further precautions. Nurses are still taking vital signs and touching the patients more than anyone. In major sporting leagues, they have suspended the season to help control the spread of the virus and protect players, spectators, and their families. However, there is no suspending hospitals, clinics, and laboratory testing.
COVID-19 belongs to a class of viruses called Coronaviridae. So far, it has been shown to mainly affect people over 60 who have heart failure, diabetes, and immunosuppression (weakened immune system). Nevertheless, it is important to note that new information comes in every day, and there are still some cases showing up in all age groups. Leading scientists and medical professionals caution us to understand that everyone is still at risk, even if the first wave of reported deaths and hospitalizations are in older populations with comorbid medical conditions. So far, it appears that the virus is transferred via respiratory droplets, similar to the flu. This is why social distancing is important to reduce the amount of time you are within 6 feet of another person. We should also understand that touching our noses and mouths can transmit the virus if we touch an infected surface (like metals and fabrics). By washing our hands we can decrease the chance of transmitting the virus to ourselves or someone else.
For more information about the Coronavirus please use one of the following links:
Center for Disease Control (CDC)